VIDEO/BLOG: Alpine Winter Action – Profit Perroux

Last week Yorkshire truck driver Andy Houseman arrived in Chamonix to blue skies and warm weather.

We didn’t have a lot of free time as Andy had to jet back to sunny Yorkshire and I had to get my ass down to Catalunya, but we did manage to get up the Aiguille du Midi with another friend Maury Birdwell.

We were hoping to climb the classic Vent du Dragon but due to going off route (Maury πŸ˜‰ ) we ended up doing the top half of the Profit Perroux Gully, after doing a sort of variation start.

Brilliant fun to be in the mountains, and here’s the video:

I’ve been out rock climbing quite a bit recently, so you might say that a ‘come back’ is on the cards. There is snow here in Chamonix again now though, so the planks are waxed, and no doubt my forearms will shrivel up again.

Anyway, brilliant to climb with Andy and Maury. Hope the video isn’t too boring! More blogging to come on some awesome rock climbing soon.

Me having fun in the Alpine! Photo by Andy Houseman
Me having fun in the Alpine! Photo by Andy Houseman
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VIDEO: Alpine First Ascent with Hazel Findlay

A couple of summers ago Hazel and I nabbed a nice little first ascent here in the Chamonix valley. We climbed the front face of the rock spire the Aiguille de Saussure.

It was a bit of a faff to get to, involving some serac threatened traversing (which we did our best to avoid as much as possible), then quite a long abseil to reach the tower.

The tower is on the flank of Mont Blanc du Tacul, and the Aigulle de Saussure summit is 3839m in altitude. Despite the altitude we got warm temperatures on the rock face. I was climbing in just my Driclime windshirtΒ and a base layer. Fortunately this meant a comfortable bivvy, unfortunately the warm temperatures did mean the ice couloir was a stream, check out the video.

It was a great little adventure, a beautiful bivvy, and nice to bag a new route right above Chamonix.

Anyway, with a lot of time on my hands on my recent trip to Patagonia I revisited the footage from the ascent and decided that there was enough half decent stuff to put a short video together.

Here it is:

Climbing with Hazel is always really great fun and I am looking forward to doing some sunny limestone sport climbing with her this spring.

Blog/PHOTOS: Ski Weekend – Pas de Chevre – 22/02/2014

It has been a couple of years since I have had the chance to ski the classic Pas de Chevre run under the North Face of the Dru. Today Emily and I grabbed that chance and had a great run in good snow.

Several groups of friends skied some steeper lines today but the fresh snow from yesterday wasn’t sticking too well on the steep stuff, so mellow turns seemed like the best option! Fun times!

Here’s a couple of photos of some excellent ski conditions.

Skiing the Pas de Chevre
Skiing the Pas de Chevre with the Dru North Face in the background. Such a great run and such an amazing mountain.
Not quite untracked, but plenty of room left! :-) Happy days!
Not quite untracked, but plenty of room left! πŸ™‚ Happy days! 5 minutes later the rocky abseil wasn’t quite as kind on the skis!

Tomorrow I am off in to the mountains for a real adventure and am very excited about trying out some filming whilst skiing. Hopefully my first blog ski video will come out of it. Biggest question is: what to take for dinner?! πŸ™‚

BLOG / PHOTOS: Chamonix Ski Conditions – January 30th 2014

Finally it seems that things are settling down here in Chamonix. More lines are being skied, the snow has a reasonable base and the conditions are generally quite good at the moment.

Here’s a couple of photos from a few days ago up at Le Tour.

Christelle Gionana skiing great snow at Le Tour
Christelle Gioana skiing great snow at Le Tour
Ben O'Connor-Croft at Le Tour, Chamonix
Ben O’Connor-Croft at Le Tour, Chamonix

The ice climbing this season has been very fickle, but with the onset of cold temperatures once again, I have heard that Cogne is in very good shape. You can check out Jon Griffith’s photo from a couple of days ago.

I don’t have much more info until the weekend, as I have been away – over at the huge tradeshow of ISPO in Munich, Germany. But with some snow and a lot of cloud forecast for Saturday and Sunday, I think tree skiing will be in order…

BLOG: Chamonix Conditions: SKIING POWDER! 19th Jan 2014

Well it might not be neck deep and fluffy, but it isn’t bad.

Andy Houseman skiing the trees in boot deep powder at Courmayeur, Italy
Andy Houseman skiing the trees in boot deep powder at Courmayeur, Italy

The last week has seen some fairly significant snowfall in Chamonix, mostly falling on Wednesday night and Thursday. Skiing conditions have been pretty good the last few days, with people skiing powder and fresh tracks over in Italy at Courmayeur (see photo of Andy Houseman above) and up the Aiguille du Midi (photo of me below), as well as good conditions found off the top lift at the Grands Montets.

Me skiing fresh tracks up the Aiguille du Midi, on the Gros Rognon variation
Me skiing fresh tracks up the Aiguille du Midi, on the Gros Rognon variation

The weather has stayed mixed with little sun and temperatures in the valley hovering around zero degrees. This has meant that the snow that has fallen hasn’t been too affected by the sun, and although it has been a little heavy on the lower slopes, in general the skiing has been very good for the last five days.

Climbing conditions in the mountains haven’t been as favourable, with cloudy weather and many routes looking quite thin. Here’s a moody photo of the East Face of the Tacul from Wednesday the 15th of Jan.

Tacul on the 15th of Jan - pretty dry.
Tacul on the 15th of Jan – pretty dry.

The forecast for the coming week is for more unsettled weather, with some more snow and lower temperatures. Fingers crossed for some more skiing!

BLOG: Dangerous Snow in the Alps: Avalanche Course: AIARE Level 1

The last three days have seen me studying snow in Chamonix on a AIARE Level One avalanche course run by Liz and Miles Smart of Smart Mountain Guides.

Miles Smart teaching how to dig pits to check the snow pack up at Brevent
Miles Smart teaching how to dig pits to check the snow pack up at Brevent

With a very bad snow pack problem in many parts of the alps this year, it was a great time to go on such an in depth course.

There have been many deaths this winter already in the alps, with huge avalanches being reported in the general media (see this Guardian Report).

Miles finds his layer of facets from December 19th
Miles finds his layer of facets from December 19th – note this block of snow is being held upside down. The large snow crystals on the top of the block are the faceted layer you can see in the video below.

A major part of the problem is a persistent weak layer in the snow pack from back on the 19th of December. You can see us finding this layer in the video below.

I certainly don’t feel qualified to comment further on the current conditions here in Chamonix, as the situation is so complex, but suffice to say the season is not an amazing one for skiing big lines! Stay out of avalanche terrain! Happy skiing.

A Professional Climber?

Justin Roth over on the Stonemind Blog has written a thoughtful piece on being a professional climber.

Interesting stuff: http://thestonemind.com/2013/11/12/the-professionals/

There aren’t many professional climbers out there, and there are even less that are making a real living. A real salary is even harder to come by over here in Europe than it is over in the USA, and it does seem that there are much larger marketing budgets for athletes in the States. But are things changing for professional climbers?

Semi professional climber James McHaffie did mention to me the other week that he hasn’t seen budgets like we are seeing now for climbers since the late 90’s – which is surely a good thing. But we are still not talking about real salaries, we are talking about a few thousand pounds. Still a very useful cash boost for those who want to take time off from work to pursue climbing to a higher level, but not enough to put money away in a retirement plan.

In the more expensive areas of climbing, such as expedition climbing and alpinism, I have noticed that those who excel are those who have managed to gain a huge amount of experience. And how have they funded this experience? Usually through being wealthy.

Perhaps with more money available for ‘professional’ climbers, we may see more of a shift in the social backgrounds of those at the higher end of mountaineering, as we have already seen in rock climbing post war.

Speaking now of staying closer to home, it doesn’t cost a fortune to go cragging on the gritstone, but with brands looking for global appeal, and pushing their marketing via the of course global ‘internet’, will local climbing ever really be exciting enough again to satisfy a cash sponsor? Will hard local cragging be left to the driven and passionate amateurs, whilst the professionals blow their travel budgets on trips to exotic photo destinations?

When I watched Ben Moon and Jerry Moffat go on a road trip to Fontainebleau in the now iconic film The Real Thing, going all the way to France seemed like an exotic luxury that I would never afford to do. These days my Facebook feed is swamped with photos of friends in far flung places.

Have I changed? Undoubtedly! Has climbing also changed? Also undoubtedly!

On a lighter note: my favourite professional climber is Hazel ‘The Pro’ Findlay. I have a fun video of Hazel and I climbing a new route in the Alps – it will be going up on the blog when I have resolved some IT issues.

Until then here is some of the jibber-jabber I have edited out from the real video! πŸ™‚

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